Did somebody recite the oft-sighted piece of alleged Chinese wisdom, “may you live in interesting times” to D.C. sports fans in aggregate a while back? It certainly seems that way as it has been an interesting few years:
Washington Nationals – 2 consecutive 59 win seasons, meaning two consecutive 100-loss seasons in a brand new ballpark that was built amongst great controversy. Arguments over rent payments, he stalled redevelopment of the adjacent neighborhood and several mishaps that the Nats get blamed for (sometimes wrongly) have contributed to a negative public perception.
Washington Wizards – A season of promise with 3 former All-Stars playing together for the first time in a few seasons turns from disappointing to dispiriting as a twisted Gilbert Arenas joke involving guns leads to his suspension and conviction. His two All-Star teammates, Antwain Jameson and Caron Butler are traded away, while Areans gets to stay even though he caused the problem. Owner Abe Pollin died as well, but before the mess.
Washington Redskins – A coach that I was pulling for, Jim Zorn, crashes and burns. Expensive defensive lineman Albert Haynesworth lacks conditioning and becomes a punchline for constantly needing help off the field. Even with a seemingly competent head coach and general manager, Mike Shanahan and Bruce Allen, respectively, here, Haynesworth continues to be a burden as he avoids mini-camp.
Washington Capitals – After a league leading regular season, the postseason dies seven games into the post-season with the Montréal Canadiens stealing a series and making the predictions of the Caps style being ill-suited for the playoffs prescient.
DC United – The lone professional D.C. team to win a championship during the first decade of the 21st century has fallen on hard times on the pitch and in the quest for a new pitch to replace aging RFK Stadium.
It appears that the first chunk of 2010 is the low water mark D.C. sports, so at least there is no where to go but up.
In a desire for parity, football and baseball assign draft order in direct correlation to the records with the worst picking first. The indoor teams have a lottery system for the worse teams and in the past decade Washington came up first twice. The Capitals got the first pick in 2004 and selected Alex Ovechkin, now a two-time MVP in contention for a third in a row. The second lottery win for D.C. happened just last month when a stunned Irene Pollin’s stunned reaction to the Wizards lottery win perhaps the most enjoyable moment for that franchise in some time. John Wall of Kentucky is expected to be the #1 pick.
Tonight, the Nats have their second consecutive #1 pick in the MLB draft. They are widely expected to take Bryce Harper, a 17-old catcher from Las Vegas with the pick. Harper, a Sports Illustrated coverboy a year ago yesterday. They called him the “Chosen One” and suggested he could be the LeBron James of baseball. Since that time, Harper has gotten a GED and begun playing for the College of Southern Nevada. He hits for power and throws in the 90s, but may have attitude problems. That being said, the feeling is you have to draft him and the Nats will almost certainly make that call.
Tomorrow night, the #1 pick of last year’s draft makes his debut at Nationals Park. Stephen Strasburg is simply the most-hyped pitcher of his generation if not all of them. He is scheduled to start for the Nats against the Pittsburgh Pirates after a stint in the minors. His arrivial is probably the biggest thing to happen to the Nats since their first Opening Night in D.C.
In addition to standings futility that created the 3 most recent #1 overall picks, there is another common thread.
The town in North Jersey, surrounded by a moat of New Jersey Turnpike wyes, was once home to numerous pig farms and their…aroma. Today, Secaucus is home to MLB Network and NBA TV studios. Tonight, the Nats will make their #1 pick there, just as they did for Strasburg 363 days earlier. The Wiz won the lottery there and will probably pick Wall there later in the month.
As D.C. sports fans move on from the era of bad feelings (and worse seasons) to an era of hope, ideally followed by an era of championships, perhaps Secaucus, will be remembered as the place where hope began.
I’ll be happy to organize a float for one of their parades to note the significance. Anybody with me?
Oh and about that proverb — I’m thinking it was said in Montréal.